Even if it’s the 15th best film of the year (approximation– absolutely no insult in a year this strong)—it feels like a bit of a changing of the guard after such a strong 1990’s for Scorsese. Younger auteurs like Fincher, PT Anderson, Sofia Coppola, Sam Mendes, Lynn Ramsay, Spike Jonze, (those last 4 are debuts) had come out with stronger films.
Scorsese brings back his A-team crew, Thelma Schoonmaker editing, Dante Ferretti doing the production design, Paul Schrader as the screenwriter (4th collaboration after Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Last Temptation) Robert Richardson as the DP, Elmer Bernstein doing the score—incredible crew
He’s not a bad performance by any stretch- it’s a good one—but it feels like it says something that Nic Cage doesn’t give one of the best performances of 1999 in great role in the center of a Scorsese film—that doesn’t happen
Like Taxi Driver, After Hours– this is NYC almost exclusively at night (even with some smoke pouring out of the sewers)
Scorsese flashes an exaggerated red (from the flashing ambulance siren presumably)—we even go to the dark circles under Nic Cage’s eyes in close out like De Niro’s Travis Bickle. He’s burned out, alcoholic and sleep depraved. He’s Scorsese’s Charlie from Mean Street– a sinner. The streets are red, the drug-lord’s apartment is soaked in red, the drug that is killing everyone is called red death—like Scorsese’s Age of Innocence and Goodfellas he’s using the greens and reds to show Eden and Hell. Here- the hospital (which has green paint inside) is called “Mercy”. Patricia Arquette called “Mary”.
There’s the Conrad Hall in In Cold Blood– the rain off the window here on John Goodman’s face, Cage’s face (with this superb shot to follow).
So Cage spends 3 days – one with John Goodman, one with Ving Rhames and one with Tom Sizemore. I think Ving is supposed to be good (he preaches, white light, virgin birth), Sizemore evil. But I wish the allegory was even more transparent—more represented visually, more overstated. It’s tough to tell.
The pop/rock music drops are excellent- stuff from “The Clash” with a great use of REM’s “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”- 90’s rock right at home here.
Simplistic but instead of Bickle’s Taxi we’re in an ambulance here and this NYC is surely a metaphor for hell.
Scorsese’s trademark Agnes Varda triple ellipsis edit on Arquette – apartment has plants- but not soaked in green like Age of Innocence– missed opportunity for Scorsese
Cliff Curtis as “Cy” is marvelous. His apartment- saturated in red—from Ebert- “Scorsese assembles the film as levels in an inferno. It contains some of his most brilliant sequences, particularly two visits to a high-rise drug house named the Oasis, where a dealer named”
Scorsese is active- as he always is- speeding up the film speed (especially during the Sizemore section)
A great split diopter shot on Sizemore
Ebert— “To look at “Bringing Out the Dead”–to look, indeed, at almost any Scorsese film–is to be reminded that film can touch us urgently and deeply. Scorsese is never on autopilot, never panders, never sells out, always goes for broke; to watch his films is to see a man risking his talent, not simply exercising it. He makes movies as well as they can be made, and I agree with an observation on the Harry Knowles Web site: You can enjoy a Scorsese film with the sound off, or with the sound on and the picture off.”
Recommend- closer to HR than the back end of the archives—a really good film, only a disappointment coming from someone like Scorsese